The return of Dancing on Ice to ITV last night (January 5th, 2020) saw six celebrities take to the rink with their professional partners, giving their all in their first live performance of the series. Amongst them were Ian 'H' Watkins of English pop group Steps, who made British television history as he partnered up with Matt Evers in a same-sex coupling that brought new judge John Barrowman to tears.
Daniel Whiston made his return to behind-the-scenes work on the show for the second series running, making a comeback as Creative Director in a role that the three-time Dancing on Ice champion now says he's more confident in than ever before.
Here's what he had to say about this year's series, the show making history and more...
You're back as Creative Director on the new series of Dancing on Ice; what can you tell us about the show and what we should expect this year?
Last year was my first year as associate creative director, and I learnt so many things. This series of Dancing on Ice I feel more confident in my role and am aiming to be bigger and bolder with the performance ideas I create and the choreography I put together. Last year there was some great feedback from viewers about the group performances and so I hope they’ll be wowed many times over again this year.
We've got our first same-sex partnership on the show this year, making British history. We've seen the same sort of partnerships become a huge success in talent shows around the world. Do you think it's past time we had partnerships like this, on shows such as Dancing on Ice?
Having the first same-sex partnership is making British TV history and it’s a bold and positive move for the show to make. It’s great that ITV are making shows that are inclusive and diverse, and reflect the UK population. As the series progresses I hope the focus will be on what each skating couple bring to their performance, rather than their gender, sexuality, age etc. Dancing on ice is about challenging each and every celebrity to learn a new skill and then go out onto the ice and put on a great performance... so the most important thing is to entertain the millions of people watching.
How will having two men partnered up change the style in which they take to the ice and put on a show?
As this is the first time two men have partnered up on the ice, it’s a little bit of an unknown. Similarly to every partnership we’ve had on previous series, they’re sure to develop their own unique style of skating together. What I can tell you is; like all of our celebrity couples, Ian and his skating pro Matt have been training incredibly hard to put together and finesse their first routine, so it’s going to be really exciting to see the result of all their hard work.
It's hard to pick favourites, but who are some of the celebrities you're enjoying working with the most this year?
We have such a brilliant cast this series, with celebrities from assorted backgrounds, including a newsreader, soap stars and sporting heroes... we’ve even got a magician. That’s what I love about working on Dancing on Ice, I get to meet such interesting people and hear fascinating stories about their careers, so I genuinely enjoy working with everyone and would find it impossible to single any one person out.
Have there been any big scares or injuries in training you can tell us about?
The biggest injury to date is Michael Barrymore breaking his left wrist during rehearsals, which is gutting because he was so excited about competing on the show. I was really enjoying working with Michael and getting to know him a little bit, and I know he loved the challenge of learning to ice skate. One positive thing is that he’ll still be appearing on the Dancing on Ice Christmas special and he’ll still be part of the DOI family.
John Barrowman has joined the show this series as a new judge; are you excited to see him working on the show?
It’s really great that John Barrowman is joining Dancing on Ice as a judge, as he has huge success as a performer on both stage and screen and he also has insight and understands what it’s like to compete on the show, having been a contestant on the very first series of Dancing on Ice. I think John will bring a great energy and sense of fun to the judging panel and I’m really excited to see him working on the show.
What do you make of Jason Gardiner leaving the series?
Jason Gardiner was a judge for eight series of the show and therefore was an important part of Dancing in Ice history. I think Jason decided to leave the show because he wanted to be able to focus on other projects that are close to his heart, and I can understand that. Also, TV talent shows sometimes need the presenters, judges and professionals to change in order to keep things fresh and continue to entertain the audience.
This is your second year away from being one half of one of the partnerships on the show; do you miss that side of the series?
I had a great 10 years competing on Dancing on Ice and was lucky enough to skate with 10 fantastic women during that time. I do miss competing, in particular the friendships that you develop when you’re spending so much time training together but I really love being more creatively involved with the show now. Although I don’t compete on the show any more, I still get to skate in group routines every now and then, so get to bring out the skating showman in me.
Who would you partner up with this year from the celebrities competing, if you had to choose somebody?
One thing all of my previous celebrity skating partners have in common is they were all great fun to work with and we spent a lot of time laughing. So in answer to your question, I’d choose whoever makes me belly laugh until my sides hurt but I’m not giving you a name.
Finally, how will you be spending the next few weeks leading up to the premiere of Dancing on Ice Series 12?
In addition to working as a creative director, I work with each of the celebrities and their professional partners to help them develop their routines, so that takes up a big chunk of my time. I spend time training in the gym and on the rink, trying to get myself to peak physical condition as even though I no longer compete, the show is still physically demanding. Now I’m associate creative director I also seem to spend quite a lot of time in meetings discussing ideas and working out how best to bring them to life. It’s busy at the moment and set to get even busier once series 12 starts.
Dancing on Ice continues Sundays on ITV.
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